With the result, the USA remains second place in the Octagonal standings. With two matches left to play they are favorites over at slots to qualify. The top three teams qualify directly to Qatar, while the fourth-place finisher will compete in a two-game intercontinental playoff for a World Cup berth.
The U.S. can clinch a spot in Qatar with a win vs. Panama on Sunday, March 27 in Orlando, Fla. (6:30 p.m. ET) as long as Costa Rica draws or loses at El Salvador. The USMNT would also qualify with a draw vs. Panama and a Costa Rica loss at El Salvador.
The result extends the USA’s unbeaten streak in official competition against its archrival to four matches, which is a record. It’s also the fourth-straight match in which the U.S. has earned points against El Tri in Mexico after losing 23 of its first 24 matches in Mexico.
After facing low defensive blocks through much of World Cup qualifying, tonight’s game was end-to-end from the opening kick. Zack Steffen was the first goalkeeper called into action when he swallowed up a strong header from Cesar Montes in the aftermath of a Mexico free kick in the 13th minute.
Midfielder Yunus Musah had the USA’s first real chance of the match one minute later. Defender Antonee Robinson, who played an excellent game at outside back, found Weah near the penalty spot. The forward got a touch on the ball as it rolled past him for an onrushing Musah in the right side of the box, but his shot toward the right post was tipped away by Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Mexico buzzed around the U.S. penalty on numerous occasions, but U.S. center backs Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman were always up to the task. As Mexico got moving in transition in the 25th, Robinson got his foot on the ball to slow down an El Tri attack, allowing Steffen to scoop up the ball. The U.S. ‘keeper was called upon again in the 27th as Mexico pounced on a misplayed pass in U.S. territory. Carlos Rodriguez played to Jesus Corona, who took too heavy a touch as he dribbled towards goal, giving Steffen enough time to dive on it and defuse the danger
The USA’s best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute on a combination from Weah and forward Christian Pulisic, who have served as two of the USMNT’s main attacking mainstays throughout the Octagonal. As Weah drove down the right side, he whipped a cross on the ground into Pulisic near the penalty spot, but his first-time attempt was deflected away on a fantastic reaction save from Ochoa.
The back-and-forth affair continued in the second half as Pulisic had a decent chance in the 49th. An interchange with forward Ricardo Pepi teed up midfielder Kellyn Acosta to shake off one defender with a nifty move before slipping the ball through for Pulisic on the run into the left side of the box. He fired shot from a stiff angle just beyond the six-yard box, but Ochoa leapt to push it out of bounds.
Mexico made a major push down the stretch as forward Chucky Lozano fired few of dangerous shots and midfielder Hector Herrera played in a number of dangerous passes. The U.S. defense was called upon to make some hard-nosed one-on-one defensive plays, including Zimmerman holding off a dribble from Raul Jimenez inside the box in the 70th minute.
Two second-half substitutes created the USA’s most menacing chance of the second half after some lovely build-up. From the sideline, Pulisic played the ball to Acosta, who played a great ball in from 30 yards behind the Mexico defense to forward Gio Reyna on the run towards the six-yard box. Reyna played the ball out of the air back to forward Jordan Pefok in the middle, but his volley attempt deflected out of play. Reyna, making his first USMNT appearance since the first World Cup qualifying match on Sept. 2, impressed with a number of impressive runs.
Lozano continued to create chances late in the game, rocketing a 78th minute shot that Steffen managed to get a finger on and tip over the crossbar, even though a goal kick was awarded. U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter subbed in two central defenders in the 80th minute to secure the shutout, bringing on Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown. Both players made their World Cup qualifying debuts, the record-tying 28th and 29th players to do so this cycle, and Long was called upon to make a few clearances in his 10-minute spell.
Head coach: Gregg Berhalter
Head coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino